Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coronado Concerts in the Park: An Evening in Corsica

By the time Memorial Day weekend rolled around, our Concert in the Park group was eager to take on the first culinary challenge of the summer. The May issue of Saveur featured a wonderful article by David McAninch called Pleasure Island and then put together An Evening in Corsica theme dinner party menu with recipes from the issue. Thank you, Saveur, for providing the inspiration to kick off our 5th summer of There's a Newf in My Soup Concert in the Park picnics!

"The mountainous island of Corsica is home to a cuisine that's equal parts Alpine, Mediterranean, French and Italian—and all its own... this menu features the kind of sturdy, flavorful food that's typical there: cannelloni and swiss chard dumplings, a rustic lemon-scented cheesecake, and more, all paired with our favorite Corsican wines." The Dinner Party: An Evening in Corsica

Photo Credit: Best Beaches

"Gale-force winds had made for a memorable overnight ferry-crossing from Genoa, but my discomfort was a small price to pay for a morning so clear that Provence seemed little more than a few valleys away. As I turned slowly to the east, the Mediterranean and France faded from view, replaced by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the island of Elba, and the coast of Italy." - George Semler, Corsica: Wild France

Unfortunately, the Coronado Community Concert Band was unable to play any of the selections from Saveur's Corsica playlist, but once the food starts circulating and bottles of wine are uncorked, the music is inevitably lost in the oohs and aahs and lively conversations. 

John tingled our taste buds and triggered the oohs and aahs of the evening with an amuse bouche of Corsican Deviled Eggs.

Deviled eggs appeared in The Saveur 100 Chefs' Edition (2011), Saveur's annual list of great food finds around the world. We recently ordered them for Happy Hour off Leroy's menu and found them to be deliciously "deviled" with yellow curry, pickled red onion and mango chutney. I'm not exactly sure where John found his inspiration, but he has hatched his own challenge for the summer concert season, to create a unique deviled egg that complements each of our culinary themed challenges. Some weeks may prove to be more challenging than others! For our Evening in Corsica, he dressed up the classic deviled egg by incorporating capers and some of the herbs found on the island. He plated the eggs on a bed of lightly dressed baby arugula, garnished the star-tip piped yolks with crispy prosciutto, and added a few drops of paprika oil around the edge of the whites to finish off his elegant presentation.

Corsican Deviled Eggs

Although they're a pain in the butt to shell, the arrival of favas to the farmers' markets brings a smile to my face. Once the beans are released from their broad, leathery pods, a quick blanching and ice bath plunge helps loosen the exterior coating. After another painstaking session removing the outer coating, the reward is a handful of small, sweet, bright green beans that need nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil and a few shavings of Pecorino cheese. Minute Chef toyed with the idea of preparing the Fava and Pecorino Salad, until I educated him on the time involved to shell the favas. As an alternative, I suggested a charcuterie platter with a few cured meats and cheeses, but that didn't make it to the table either.  If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen...just sayin' 

In Rome, on the first of May, Roman families traditionally eat fresh fava beans with Pecorino Romano cheese during a daily excursion in the Campagna. In Liguria, a maritime region near northern Italy, fava beans are loved raw, and consumed fresh in early spring as the first product of the garden, alone or with fresh Pecorino Sardo, or with local salami from Sant'Olcese.

Insalata di Baccelli e Pecorino (Fava and Pecorino Salad)

"The calling card of Corsican charcuterie is rich marbling, which owes to the free-range, chestnut-fattened Nustrale pigs, a black-skinned breed that is related to the island's native wild boars." David McAninch, The Art of the Cure: Corsican Charcuterie

This should have been Bradley's charcuterie

In addition to the Fava and Pecorino Salad, Saveur's Corsican Dinner Party Menu featured Swiss Chard Cannelloni. This was my first time making cannelloni, and I took on the additional challenge  making homemade pasta. The cannelloni is filled with ricotta, swiss chard, garlic and mint, nestled in a baking dish, covered with a zesty homemade tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, thyme, basil, and red chile flakes, topped with fontina cheese, baked until hot and bubbly, and finished under the broiler to brown the cheese.  We all loved this dish, and Carmen commented it is in the top three of everything she's ever tasted from my kitchen (please excuse the photo - it looked much prettier before the cheese stuck to the foil during transport to the park).

Pasta Incu Bietulle (Swiss Chard Cannelloni)

Kai prepared Stuffed Eggplant, which paired nicely with Nina's Stuffed Tomatoes. Hey, didn't we already do Battle Stuffed? We did, for the first concert in the summer of 2009 - Fill Me Up Until I'm Stuffed.

Kai's Stuffed Eggplant

Nina's Stuffed Tomatoes

Carmen was ready to rally with her Dutch oven full of Rick Stein's Corsican Wild Mushroom and Boar Stew, showcasing Corsica's wild boar, chestnuts, juniper berries, and herbs. She served it over rigatoni and it was perfect to take that slight chill out of the air.  She also made Mendients, a traditional French confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits. Jim successfully located a few bottles of Corsican wine at Bacchus Wine Market but I didn't move fast enough to get a tasting.

Chris tending to the Corsican Wild Mushroom and Boar Stew

White Chocolate Mendients

Kudos to Sandra!  I received her Cipolline in Agrodolcee e-mail and photo when we returned from the park that evening, apologizing for underestimating the time it would take to peel a bucket load of pearl  onions. She raved how good they ultimately turned out, so I had to try for myself and made them to accompany grilled steaks and sausages at the OCC (Ocean Corner Compound) Memorial Day BBQ. Like fava beans, the extra time in preparation is ultimately rewarded by sweetness of the sauteed onions and raisins and tanginess from the balsamic and sugar glaze.

Sandra's version with Pearl Onions

Cipollini Onions

Cipolline in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Onions)

Two more main courses that managed to escape the photo shoot were Pammy's Crock Pot Corsican Chicken and Mom Gaddis' Corsican Seafood Stew loaded with shrimp and scallops.

I couldn't stop at cannelloni, fava beans, and cipollini onions, so I tried the Torta Pisticcina, made with the flour from Corsica's prized crop, chestnuts, studded with whole almonds (I used Marcona almonds), and topped with a scattering of sliced almonds. This tart has a very unique flavor from the chestnut flour. I borrowed this description from To describe a flour as sweet seems odd, but chestnut flour is truly sweet and mellow and imparts a most unusual yet welcome flavor to everything in which it is used. 

Torta Pisticcina (Chestnut Flour Tart)

Fiadone is a rustic lemon-scented cheesecake typically made with brocciu, a fresh goat's or ewe's milk cheese, but ricotta works just as well. Mom tackled Fiadone, as well as French Apple Cake from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.

There were a few negative reviews of Saveur's Fiadone, so she went with another recipe. It baked up beautifully, and looked exactly like it was supposed to look, but I didn't care for the texture. It was a cross between sponge cake and souffle, and not at all creamy like a cheesecake. As an alternative, I strongly recommend Tourteau de Chèvre, a specialty cheesecake of Poitou Charentes, also from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.

Fiadone (rustic lemon-scented cheesecake)

"The rum-and-vanilla-scented batter is less cakey than custardy. And there’s only enough of it to surround the apples. It’s a very homey, almost rustic cake and it’s good no matter what kinds of apples you use. In fact, when I asked Marie-Hélène which apples she used, she said she didn’t know--she just used whatever she had." - Dorie Greenspan

Marie-Hélène Apple Cake

After our Evening in Corsica, I can assure you this is going to be one of our best concert seasons yet! We won't be doing a formal theme every Sunday, but I hope to have something interesting to share after most Sundays. And Corsica is now on my bucket list!

Photo credit: A Touch of Corsica 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever

"We are bound by a small, sometimes magical fruit called the strawberry. This fruit has the power to make tears dry up, make friends with enemies, make sick people feel better, make the elderly feel younger by bringing back pleasant memories of days gone by, make acquaintances of strangers, and above all make little children smile. What other fruit has that power?"
-Marvin Brown

We spent the morning at Suzie's Farm last Saturday for the annual Strawberry Jam, a family friendly, pick-your-own strawberry festival. A visit to the farm has been on our list for quite some time, and we knew it would be a great photography opportunity!

The strawberry fields were picked clean in just a few hours, but Suzie's Farm promised to plant at least five acres for next year's event. The Green Truck was also on site with a special strawberry-infused menu for the day. My Strawberry Jam Burger featured a 1/3 lb. grass-fed beef patty, smoked gouda, strawberry jam (made with Suzie's Farm strawberries, of course), Suzie's Farm arugula, and house bun. John had the Roasted Broccoli Grilled Cheese Sandwich, with Suzie's Farm broccoli, aged cheddar, goat's milk feta, garlic spread, and local multigrain bread. We shared an order of Sweet Potato Fries, made with hand-cut California garnet yams.

With the strawberries that made it home, we sliced up a few, drizzled them with a touch of thick, syrupy balsamic vinegar, and spooned them over strawberry cheesecake ice cream.  I also used some in the salad below, which I created with baby arugula, fregola, toasted almonds, fresh basil, and lavender honey goat cheese, all lightly tossed in a balsamic, olive oil and tangerine juice vinaigrette. Fregola, a type of pasta from Sardinia, and similar to Israeli couscous, added a nice flavor and texture to the salad.


Here are a few more strawberry recipes you might like....

Burrata, Tomato and Roasted Strawberry Salad

Strawberry Summer Cake

Bouchon's Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

Strawberry Shortcake on a Stick

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Door Prize: Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini

We've found another pasta 'keeper.'

This past month, Il Fornaio's Festa Regionale Menu showcased the cuisine of Puglia, the heel of the boot, including a pasta called spaghettoni. Spaghettoni was the foundation for one of the featured pastas, Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini, made with the artisan pasta, sausage, rapini (aka broccoli rabe), tomatoes, garlic, basil, peperoncino and pecorino cheese.  A package of the pasta was a gift (or "door prize" as we like to call it) to loyal guests who are Passaporto holders, and who order from the Festa Regionale menu.

We love attending the invitation only Tuesday Night Tastings when the menu is released at the beginning of the month. The lovely Jennifer hosted, and Edgar was our dedicated server.

Jennifer and Edgar at Il Fornaio's Tuesday Night Tasting

Burrata di Andria
 Burrata cheese with sliced vine-ripened tomatoes, oregano and baby arugula; drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil 

Edgar serving Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini

 Il Fornaio's Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini

With our spaghettoni door prize in hand, and the recipe printed on the card attached, I was easily able to  prepare this wonderful pasta at home.

Spaghettoni is slightly thicker and longer than spaghetti.  If you can't find it, substitute spaghetti or bucatini. Rapini, also known as broccoli rabé or broccoletti, is commonly used in the cuisines of southern Italy, northwestern Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and China, and is now grown throughout the world. It has many spiked leaves that surround clusters of green buds that resemble small heads of broccoli. Small, edible yellow flowers may be blooming among the buds. The flavor of rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, and pungent, but any bitterness is nicely mellowed by cooking.

In Il Fornaio's recipe, the stems of the rapini are cut off and used to flavor the pasta water, and then removed before the pasta is added.  The leaves and buds are briefly cooked with the pasta (added about a minute before it is al dente), and drained with the pasta. The pasta and rapini are then added to the pan with the prepared sauce, tossed gently until coated with sauce, and then plated.


Mise en place - Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini

Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini

To watch a video of Executive Chef Maurizio Mazzon preparing Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini, click here. For a downloadable PDF of the recipe for Spaghettoni con Salsiccia e Rapini, click here.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this pasta.

Friday, May 18, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Double Chocolate Nutella Banana Tart

This week's decadent Double Chocolate Banana Tart provided the ultimate sweet finale to the Mother's Day dinner I prepared for mom. Of course, I could not resist the bonne idée - slathering a layer of Nutella over the chocolaty, crumbly shortbread crust before adding the caramelized bananas and generous layer of dark chocolate ganache. And, since both Nutella and chocolate pair so well with bananas, I followed Dorie's advice and finished the top of the tart with a layer of sliced bananas brushed with warm apricot jam.

Next time, I will omit the top layer of bananas and spoon in a thicker layer of caramelized bananas to snuggle under the blanket of heavenly ganache, more along the lines of this Warm Chocolate & Banana Tart over at Zen Can Cook.  Read closely and you'll notice that Pierre Hermé, master Parisian pastry chef, leaves out Nutella, but slips slivers of habanero chile and rum macerated raisins in with the caramelized bananas. A touch of heat, a few boozy raisins, and the best French chocolate you can find...I can assure you I won't be missing that top layer of bananas.

Valrhona chocolate is among the best French chocolate you can find

Valrhona + Heavy Cream + Butter = Silky gananche

Layer of caramelized bananas

Finished Tart

So much for the healthy dinner served earlier

After scraping the bananas off the leftover wedge of tart, I've returned to the refrigerator several times, cutting off just a tiny wedge to satisfy the slightest chocolate craving.  I tried to be discreet, but that residual film of chocolate left on the corner of my mouth always gave it away - similar to Trapper's failed attempt to hide the evidence.


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

*Full Disclosure: I am a member of Amazon Affiliates and receive an extremely small commission if you link to Amazon from There's a Newf in My Soup and purchase this fabulous cookbook.